"Elegy for Miss Calico"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Sept. 29 2009 7:10 AM

"Elegy for Miss Calico"

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear  Frank Gallimore read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

O the year before they hauled the deaf woman 
from the trash. O the fishnets that crisscrossed
her legs, the florets in her straightened hair.
Asking how to pronounce Baby and How much,
she felt my throat for the trick of it. In a window
she made a primping Blanche DuBois over Felony Flats.
And Mondays with her stolen shopping cart she'd go
dumpster-jumping the lot between the fairgrounds
and the School for the Deaf. Who found the cart
up by the gabled houses and their turn-of-the-century
dream of baked Alaska, Amaryllis belladonna
so many grandmas asleep in a goldenrod grave?

When they fished her out, the eastbound roared
through necklaces of skyline, or so I remember,
or so I say. By rust-ravaged fronts, I sensed 
a hustler's craft, device of handshake and for-the-best,
while there lay syringes by which to tune his happiness.
I used to watch his girls cluster like flowers on a mock-
terrazzo ledge, pressed on a barred patio. I'd watch her coo,
make mouths of inscrutable lingo for the long lash of his body.
And O the too-short calico dress, hand-me-down,
arranging itself on the breeze of his battered porch.

How do you say my name? she'd ask at dusk,
smooth fingers again on my throat to feel the syllables rise.
By morning her smelllike a wrung rag's. Whore, I'd say, 
the word puckering as she tossed her ratty head back
and laughed. We laughed. I wiped my cheek
with the back of my hand, the sign for her like rubbing a scar.


Frank Gallimore lives in Seattle, where he works as a sign-language interpreter. He is a 2007 graduate of the MFA program at Johns Hopkins University.



The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.


Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

The Ludicrous Claims Women Are Pitched at “Egg Freezing Parties”

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Oct. 1 2014 11:48 AM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 1 2014 12:20 PM Don’t Expect Hong Kong’s Protests to Spread to the Mainland
Business Insider
Oct. 1 2014 12:21 PM How One Entrepreneur Is Transforming Blood Testing
Oct. 1 2014 11:59 AM Ask a Homo: A Lesbian PDA FAQ
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 10:54 AM “I Need a Pair of Pants That Won’t Bore Me to Death” Troy Patterson talks about looking sharp, flat-top fades, and being Slate’s Gentleman Scholar.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 12:26 PM Where Do I Start With Leonard Cohen?
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 AM Watch a Crowd Go Wild When Steve Jobs Moves a Laptop in This 1999 Demonstration of WiFi
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 12:01 PM Rocky Snow
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.